Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Hay

"You've gotta make hay while the sun shines."  My old man said that more times than I can count.  It was a tenet he lived by and you can rest assured that he was the workin'est son of a b@#% anyone has ever seen.  His truth in that statement was simple, that a man should take every opportunity given to him because it may not be there tomorrow.  We will get into that in a moment.

Constant Reader (anyone a Stephen King fan?). You. I thank you. Never did I actually think there would be folks out there who read and respond to what I write.  I'm floored each time I meet a person that says, "I love your site!"  Those that have been here since the beginning and have been keeping count will realize that this is my 100th post.  Big deal, I'm not here to celebrate me.  I never thought I had 10 in me, much less 100.  Have I written things to ruffle feathers?  Sometimes.  Have I said things that can be taken the wrong way?  Absolutely.  Have I given the impression that I am a superior fireman?  God, I hope not!  Do I wish I could take back some of the things I've stated? Not at all, you see, these are my thoughts about this job.  I may not hit the mark every time, but I strive to.  Anything that I write comes from the heart of a guy that has a love for this noble profession no man can top. Perhaps match, but never top.  I still have the same love for this job that I did the night I got voted on my first department.  Sure, I may say things in an abrasive way, but it's not to criticize, it's to spark thought, conversation, and hopefully change when change is warranted.


Now is the time for the uncomfortable conversation.  Without you guys, I would have no forum to expel my thoughts.  With that said, I've dipped from the well of negativity and discord for long enough.  Sure, raising Hell about people who don't get "It" felt good and right and gained me lots of page views.  I won't lie, it feels cathartic to write something unpopular with many but shared and read by the silent minority in this awesome profession.  However, what I have realized is that which lies in the bottom of the well is nothing worthy of any more of my time.  Only the putrid and murky water of disharmony and separatism reside in the depths of negativity.  What about the good that still exists in this profession?  I'll bet my next paycheck that Ben Franklin worried about the generation following him.  Guess what, centuries later we are STILL going strong!

Back to my old man and his saying.  An opportunity has arisen that I would be a fool to pass up.  It's hard to say this, but it is time for me to move on.  I've cut my teeth here, written some things that I'm proud of, and hopefully made you think.  Am I closing the site?  Nope, but it won't be posted on quite as frequently.  Will I return to write more posts?  I'll be around, certainly in a different forum and perhaps sometimes here.  The time has come for me to take what I have to another level.  You'll see me around.  I'll still be brutally honest, because I've always said if you want sugar sprinkled on the top, the bakery is right down the street. Just know that I'll never be able to change me any more than a tiger can change his stripes.

Thanks for sharing the posts.  Thanks for giving me a place to come that is pure, without ads, or distractions, or bullshi#.  Thanks for liking the page, even though I have never invited or begged for "Likes".  Begging is unbecoming of a person.  Thanks for telling me you like it when you meet me.  Thanks for feeding my selfish little ego.  More than anything, thanks for reading.  I'll be around, just in a different place.  Pay attention and you'll find me.

Right now, it's warm on my face.  Standing at the edge of the field, the sun is shining and I have my scythe in my hands anticipating the work that lies ahead.  Thanks Dad, for the profound wisdom and the hands that guided me into manhood.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Awakening

This probably won't be my most popular post.  For those of you who have read my stuff for a while, you know that I could care less about numbers anyway.  To prevent folks from stumbling upon this site accidentally, I'm gonna sound a little vague, not tagging and linking and bragging and name dropping, but anyone with any sense will be able to make out the "who" and the "where".  I want to take the time though to thank to my IAFF Local who sent me.  Without their support and blessing, I never would have been able to attend.

I just returned home Saturday from our profession's largest conference.  It was my first time attending.  To say that it was a highlight of my career would be an understatement.  It was the best week of my professional life and during it I learned more than I ever imagined, mostly about my shortcomings as a fireman.

It's funny how the 21st century has made us at once instantly connected yet socially backwards.  This week was an opportunity for me to finally meet in person several people whom I have know for years, through e-mail, text messaging, phone calls, and the ubiquitous Facebook.  It's funny how you can shake the hand of another for the first time, yet you've got intimate knowledge of one another.   I can't seem to wrap my head around it, however it was refreshing to congregate with others for one week where the issues of our department, home life, personal agendas, and many other distractions were put aside for a greater purpose: TRAINING!!

So, from here I'm assuming you think I'll have a clever little synopsis of the events of the week with a neat little summary at the bottom.  No way I can do that.  To put into words the surreal experience I had would be fleeting at best.  All I can do is toss out a few photos, hit the highlights, and that will serve as my take on the week.

I traveled with a friend.  At the onset of the week, I had said that it would either make or break our friendship. Without a doubt, we have a stronger bond and are now even that much more focused on our tasks to improve our department.



I took an awesome Hands On course, and I can't say enough about how cool the instructors were.  All of us have encountered the "Instructor Extraordinaire" who has great knowledge but little tact and patience.




Each instructor showed absolutely no ego.  They were there for a singular purpose:  To educate.  I got to cut roofs and force VPS security systems with firemen from this nation's busiest companies.  I got to force doors with a legend and his son.  I even pried window bars off of a prop with one of the coolest guys a person could meet.

 N I C E   P E O P L E

To say that I'll utilize some of these things I've learned would by quite an understatement. Thankfully we were allowed to take photos of all the props and almost forcibly told to "Go home and PASS IT ON!!"  I'm already compiling a list of materials needed to replicate many of these props, and I can't thank the instructors enough.

Along with the HOT training, this conference is renowned for it's keynote speakers and it's classroom sessions.  During the keynote, I had an epiphany:  Yes, I get frustrated.  Yes, I piss and moan.  Yes, I want improvement.  Until I start to improve me, how the heck can I change 1200 others? It won't happen, I've gotta fix me first.  

The classroom sessions were outstanding, everything from garden apartment fires, to large area search techniques, to RIT operations, to firefighter free speech.  My favorite was one called, "Training Warriors to Succeed Under Fire." from Maj. Jason Brezler USMC and FDNY Squad 252.  Since I took the luxury of dropping his name, I'll pay him this compliment:  Had there been a bus to Parris Island outside the doors of the classroom, I would have ridden on the roof!  I pretty sure my wife would not have liked that much though, nor my sons! 


I found out what I thought to be true.  There is a group of firefighters and writers with a singular goal: To improve other firefighters tactically, mentally, physically, and philosophically.  After spending the week with them, I know it is a tangible thing, not some half baked pipe dream.  I've never been more proud to be involved with something I believe in more than this endeavor.  



The FSW community is not an exclusive club that you have to fit a certain mold to enter.  There is only one criteria- steadfast desire to improve yourself and others. That and the fact that you have to be a world class smartass and know the definition of jitbag.  I have found that a few of those guys, previously 21st century friends, to be some of my best friends in the world.  We talked at length, over several meals, beers, walks, and between classes.  We walked the streets of the city at night from place to place.  We visited the 9/11 memorial.  We took random photos of doors in alleyways (No, even at a conference we cannot turn "It" off) we ran a race, and we climbed stairs together.  All along the way, we were out late, up early, and always together.  I can't thank them enough for what they started and what we will perpetuate.

I participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

 Warriors Leading the Way


 Unfortunately, with 30,000 firefighters in town, we only had 200 climbers.  Despite the fact that only 200 registered, not a single one of the 343 was left lying on the table.






There were several firefighters who were carrying the names of multiple fallen members of the FDNY.  Once again, I had the honor of climbing for Gregory Stajk of L-13 as well as Dennis McHugh from L-13.


Those that have read the post know my regrets from my stair climb here at home.  Redemption tastes lovely.  But the climb wasn't about me.  It was about honor.  It was about respect.  It was about raising money for a worthy cause.  If you were there and did not participate, you missed out.

How do I wrap this up?  I have no clue... It will probably take me weeks to digest and process all of the knowledge that was imparted upon me.  Back to the top, when I said the most that I learned was about me.  That's true.  I have seen areas in need of vast improvement in me.  I have vowed to tone down the negativity.  I have rededicated myself to training, even on subjects I could care less about.  I have learned that I don't have it all figured out.  I have seen inadequacies and am working towards eliminating them.  I was awakened to who I am and who I need to be.  I may never rectify all of my shortcomings, but I'll strive for nothing but my best.

My happiest moment of the week?  Standing on the curb with my bags and the airport and seeing my wife and 3 boys pulling in to pick me up.  Hands down that was the greatest moment.  I missed them so much and I owe her nothing less than endless devotion.  While I was off having one of the most profound learning experiences of my life, she was left at home with a tribe of bloodthirsty Apaches.  What's left to say?  Thank you for reading!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

"It"

"It"....is hard to define, but I'm sure you have heard many descriptions.  Such descriptions as "You know it when you see it," or "Some have it, and some don't" fall way short of describing it.  While I would love to extoll the virtues of what "It" is, I'm at a loss for words but I'll try nonetheless.  I feel I have it, and I see many others that do.  Sometimes you can look a guy right in the eye, and know whether it dwells in him.  It is passion.  It is dedication.  It is a warrior mindset that stays focused all the time. It is always there.  Some call it "Ate Up", some call it "Die Hard", and others call it "Overachiever" when describing it.  I know this:  I can't simply turn it off when I walk out of the firehouse.  If I did, I feel I would lose it.  I am "Ate Up".  No doubt, if I were not, there is no way I would be writing this crap still.

Did I say "It" enough.  That's it with the philosophical BS.  Onto something tangible, to describe "It."

You've been there.  While out with the family, your wife says, "We are out of milk."  So, you head for the local grocery store, let her out of the car, and drive circles around the parking lot with the kids in the back until she emerges.  Instead of dodging mini vans and blue haired ladies pushing buggies, lately my "It" has been flaring up, so I've been taking the opportunity to drive around to the C-side of these buildings in my hometown to take a look at the doors.  (Hey, I've said a long time ago that there is something broken inside of me....)  Anyway, while driving around I saw a few doors that would be a little difficult to force due to limited access and supplemental locks.

Nice size up, Son!


 What surprised me was the comment from the backseat from my 8 year old. "That door has 3 locks!"  I was dumbfounded.  Some firemen can't even size up a door standing in front of it.  Here is an 8 year old kid, sitting in the back seat of a mini-van, looking at at door through a tinted window over 30 feet away.  So much for him being a rocket scientist, he's destined for the truck company....

This is where "It" took over.  Moving down the building, I found an open door to the backside of a pizza parlor with a slide bolt I haven't seen before. I hop out of the van, grab my camera, and after a few minutes of begging permission from the manager to take a photo, I gave up. I explained, "I'm a fireman, I teach other firemen how to overcome locks when a building is on fire, No this isn't a surprise inspection. yada, yada yada." He wouldn't budge. He probably thought I was a thief casing the joint!  Anyway, during my conversation with the manager, it seems I had forgotten my wife....

Here are the photos I got on a later date while in service on a company:




So, here is where "It" can get you sometimes.  While I'm trying to gain photos to educate firemen, I've forgotten my wife so now I'm rushing back to the front of the store where she is standing with a rapidly warming gallon of milk in her hand.  When I tried to explain myself, my plea for mercy was met with a roll of the eyes and a devilish grin.  While I may have "It", "It" sometimes annoys my wife.  Thanks for reading!



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reality? Hardly!

This is what you are seeing: 



This is what you are not seeing, at least not as prevalently:



There is a stark difference between the photos and the fact that the first is being shared by many, but the second, not so much...  The picture was taken during the filming of a series of Training DVDs from Fire Engineering called Tactical Perspective.  This is a staged photo guys.

While I applaud the firefighters in the production of this series who have taken every avenue to add in realism to their series (which is awesome), I have nothing but utter disdain for the person that has taken the photo, chopped it up and added the "Reality/Motivation" text at the bottom.  Once that was done, it went viral and I've seen it for 2 days.  I cringe each time another person shares or e-mails it.

While I am all for the notion of making the public aware of the dangers we (potentially) face, I am totally against the notion of a fireman sharing this type of photo so that his gaggle of girlfriends will ohh and ahh over his proclaimed bravery.  You know it's happening, and why.  This is a cheap, bush league, look at me, attention getting, fallacy.  Knock it off.  If I'm the only one in the fire service who feels this way, so be it, I am not afraid to go against the grain.  If I am not, let me know. 


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Don't Do Foolish Stuff...

My Dad always said, "If you are gonna do something foolish, make sure there are no cameras around."

It's no surprise that Facebook has firmly embedded itself as a part of our lifestyle.  What's more is that many people have their accounts wide open to the public where anyone can view anything.  So, if you were to get tagged in a friend's photo doing something very foolish, even I can see it.  Just because you casually post something, don't think you may not suffer the consequences should something go awry...

While cruising Facebook earlier this evening, I saw a photo of a friend tagged in his department's training photo, and it sparked my curiosity.   It seems that they have taken a Conex container and built a training prop out back behind their station.  Cool, not every one has a training tower available.  From the looks of it, there are several features added to it to maximize the potential.  I'm down with it.  A vertical ventilation prop on the top.  I dig it.  A window in the end for VES victim removal.  Absolutely.  A burn chamber.  Okay, so long as you have qualified instructors running it, I'm still with you. Couches, tables and other furnishings.  Uh..in the flow path near the vent...you guys are losing me.  Boiling black smoke pushing from the container.  Yeah, this reeks of diesel throwing and tire burning, I'm out... Then I see the rest of the album, and the hijinks only get better. 

Guys attacking fires without their regulators clipped in.
Hoods are apparently optional.
A fella snapping photos in his bunker pants and a t-shirt...inside the container.
Surefire evidence that more than pallets and straw are being burned.
A fireman watching the show, just inside the door wearing no gear with his head just below the vicious black poison.

So my question is this?  If something happens to you while partaking in training that you know is wrong, do you deserve the same death benefit as the man that risked his life to save another?  Are you, by your own free will unprotected by PPE, deserving of the same benefit as the fireman that kept himself heart healthy, rode to the call belted in, wore his SCBA throughout the incident, operated within his department's SOG's and was killed by sudden collapse?  Do you deserve the city monument, annual scholarship golf tournament, and memorial t-shirt that will be made in honor of your memory?  Hell no you don't.

Let's be realistic. Let's say a guy does get hurt.  How do you explain this to his family?  Do you show them the photos on your facebook album?  No, ya can't do that!  Do you tell them he died heroically training in a manner that will get him killed on the street (or obviously in one of your jacked up training sessions)?  No ya can't do that either!  What are you left to do?  I reckon the only thing you can do is shrug your shoulders and play dumb, because that's how you acted.  Just know you'll probably be looking at those pictures along with a judge and 12 of your peers.

As dangerous as this job can be, why contribute to it?  Sorry Dad, I've gotta one up you.  "Don't do foolish stuff."